This week the Israeli government is expected to begin its immoral and illegal annexation of the West Bank. This follows years of increased tensions and atrocities: including shootings at protests on the Gaza border in May 2018.
Reports from health officials in Gaza say that Israeli forces killed at least 214 Palestinians throughout the 2018 protests. Last month Israeli forces killed the nephew of a senior Palestinian official at a checkpoint in the West Bank.
Despite ongoing abuses, and the threat of annexation, UK arms sales to Israel have continued unabated.
Today marks the one year anniversary since we won a landmark victory at the Court of Appeal, challenging the UK’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
As a result of that ruling, we have stopped the export of new weapons for use in the war in Yemen. A multi-billion pound deal to sell more fighter jets to Saudi Arabia remains on hold.
This is significant progress, but there is much more to do. The government is fighting every step of the way to continue the arms sales. It is appealing to the Supreme Court for a final decision, with the hearing scheduled for 23-25 November.
Meanwhile it has still not complied with the Court of Appeal ruling that it should retake its previous decisions to allow weapons sales, and it is continuing to supply the war in Yemen.
The violent crackdown and use of rubber bullets and CS gas on peaceful protestors in the United States has shone a light on the increased militarisation of the police which is happening around the world. Tear gas, which can cause serious injuries, miscarriage, and even death, is a chemical weapon banned for use in war, yet it is widely used against civilians from Gaza to Minneapolis.
What is the UK’s role in all this?
Since 2010 the UK has licensed £2 million worth of Security and para-military police goods to the US police, and £18 million worth of ammunition sales to the US military and police, including crowd control ammunition, CS hand grenades, and tear gas. The USA is the second biggest buyer of UK arms in the world.
UK licensing rules prohibit arms exports where there is a clear risk they might be used in internal repression.
The UK doesn’t just license the sale of weaponry. It actively promotes the sale of crowd control equipment – and with it, the militarisation of policing – through multi-million pound arms fairs like the Defence and Security Equipment International.
The UK government should not be licensing this equipment, and increasing the militarisation of policing, anywhere. Right now, the public outcry against what is happening in the US gives us a window of opportunity to put pressure on.
Call on the Government to cancel these licences and send a clear message against US state violence and racial injustice.
Use this moment to speak out against racism here too.
While the UK government can revoke arms export licences to send the US Government a message, it certainly does not have any moral high ground on the issues of state violence and racism. As we demand an end to the licensing of arms of the type used to shut down Black Lives Matter protests, and justice for George Floyd’s family, we must also recognise the need to address our own racism problem in the UK.
For countless decades, black people have been fighting for an end to the deeply entrenched racial discrimination and inequality affecting the lives of black people and people of colour in the UK, rooted in our colonial past. From police violence, poorer health or education outcomes, to the inaction over the lives lost at Grenfell, or the focus of immigration detention and deportation policies on people of colour. As journalist Afua Hirsh puts it, the racism that killed George Floyd was built in Britain.
As well as the continued demands for justice of the people living the experience of racism every day, research from the Race Disparity Audit, the Lammy Review, the Equality Commission, and the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Racism, E. Tendayi Achiume, all points to the same persistent exclusion and marginalisation of racial and ethnic minorities.
Find out more
The UK needs deep, structural change if we are to see true equality. And this begins with white people educating themselves and stepping up. If you are a white person wanting to find out more, or share information with other white people, here are a few places you could start.
At a time when millions of people across the world are concerned about food supplies and the ability of our health systems to respond to crisis, we must keep up the pressure for peace in Yemen, a country whose fragile health system has been devastated by five years of war.
This is a war supported by the UK government, with UK-based arms companies profiting from the destruction. Now more than ever, it is time for peace.
At the time of writing in early April, there are new reports of Saudi forces declaring a two week ceasefire. This is the second ceasefire to be reported in as many weeks – but we still have to still hope this one holds and is taken up by other parties to the conflict. The UK and other arms dealing governments can play their part by finally ending their arms sales and support for the continuing bombardment.
We hope all CAAT’s supporters are well and keeping safe. A lot of CAAT’s work will be evolving over the coming months as we adapt to the current crisis. Staff are working remotely, local group meetings and activities are moving online, and we’re looking at how Covid-19 interlinks with our different areas of work.
Some parts of the arms trade are on hold too. The biennial arms fair at Farnborough, where weapons were due to be promoted to military buyers from around the world, has already been cancelled. But in other areas it’s important we maintain our scrutiny.
Increase in state powers and policing
From ramped up surveillance of citizens in China and Singapore to accusations of a racist, politicised response in Sri Lanka, governments globally are responding with measures that some fear could outlast the pandemic, and further harm marginalised groups.
The UK Government’s COVID-19 Bill contains powers lasting two years which give police new rights to detain people. While this may make some feel safer, it’s a worrying move while people of colour are already subjected to disproportionate levels of detention and state violence in the UK. Read more about the new laws.
As yet there are no confirmed cases of Covid-19 within Yemen, but five long years of catastrophic war have destroyed its healthcare system. Ahmed Aidarous, 36, a resident of the southwestern city of Taiz, told the Middle East Eye, “Advanced countries like America are unable to fight coronavirus so Yemen will be an easy victim for corona as there is no good health system or good leadership that can help.”
The Saudi-backed Yemeni government has closed schools and cancelled all flights, which had only just resumed for people who needed to leave the country to access healthcare abroad. Mwatana for Human Rights reports that at least 45 people had already lost their lives waiting for promised humanitarian flights to access healthcare.
We took action this month to mark five years of war in Yemen, and stand together in solidarity and resistance. While coronavirus means there is a risk that the war is forgotten, it’s as important as ever that we keep up the pressure for peace and end UK arms sales.
The first case of Covid-19 has been diagnosed at Yarl’s Wood, the immigration detention Centre in Bedford which holds survivors of torture and sexual violence, and where racist verbal, physical and sexual abuse have been reported. Already experiencing high levels of mental distress and self harm, now detainees face the risk of infection by Covid-19.
The Centre is run by the world’s 73rd largest arms company Serco Group, who work closely with the UK military sector, winning £92m of Ministry of Defence contracts in 2018. A legal case related to the health crisis forced the Government to release 300 detainees recently, but thousands remain detained across the UK. There have been over 30 deaths reported in UK immigration centres, and thousands of attempted suicides.
CAAT is developing its thinking around UK borders policy, as the Government’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration strategy is part of a wider racist, state sponsored violence that keeps weapons flowing to countries where they predominantly harm people of colour.
It is also some of the same arms companies profiting from weapons sales causing many to flee their homes which profit again when they win lucrative contracts to provide security services and surveillance technologies at increasingly militarised borders. Find out more about the companies profiting twice.
Arms to ventilators?
In these turbulent and challenging times we will be looking for hope too – that in future when governments tell us things can’t change, we know that change can come almost overnight when the political will is there.
Rolls Royce, who produce military aircraft engines, and aerospace companies like Airbus which profit from the sale of fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, have been called on by the UK government to help produce components for ventilators in the fight against coronavirus. The case for moving our engineering skills from industries that take lives to ones that save them has never been stronger.
Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, recently called government economic stimulus packages in response to the coronavirus crisis as “a historic opportunity” to tackle the climate emergency. “This is a huge opportunity we cannot miss,” he said. “Here the issue is not only the level of money but the direction of the money”.
Find out more about the call to convert jobs in arms manufacturing to greener, more socially useful industries in the New Lucas Plan.
We can also see more than ever that our security is not advanced by wars, or by spending billions on nuclear weapons systems and aircraft carriers, but by building fairer societies that support the most vulnerable, and by investing in our public services like the NHS and social care.
Let’s work together to ensure that out of this crisis we create a Just Recovery, and build a world where real human needs, are prioritised.
Today we stand in solidarity with Yemen. At a time when millions of people across the world are concerned about food supplies and the ability of our health systems to respond to crisis, Yemen must not be forgotten.
Today marks five years since a Saudi-Arabian led coalition began bombing Yemen – five years in which Yemen’s health system has “almost collapsed.”
Journalist and researcher Phil Miller has just released a new book, Keenie Meenie: The British Mercenaries Who Got Away With War Crimes, which explores the shameful role of mercenaries in fuelling war and human rights abuses.
Profiting from war is one of the most controversial aspects of UK foreign policy. The debate normally centres on why British bombs are being sold to a belligerent ally. However, the arms industry will always defend its business on the grounds that its staff never pull the trigger, and that any subsequent casualties are therefore not its responsibility. Or as the chairman of Britain’s largest arms dealer, BAE Systems, modestly told shareholders in 2019: ‘[We] provide defence equipment that ultimately encourages peace.’
Security and Policing is an annual event organised by the UK government’s Home Office and the arms industry trade body, ADS. The event is a place where arms, border, policing and surveillance companies work and exhibit equipment and technologies together. Government delegations from across the world are invited by the the government’s arms sales unit, Defence & Security Organisation (DSO), and so the fair is an opportunity for relationships to be built and developed between these industries that work so closely together, but also with governments and states.
Attorney General’s office
sitting on corruption charges in relation to arms deals with Saudi
nearly two years.
A new Attorney General (the government’s chief legal adviser) was appointed in February and her approval is necessary for the case to proceed. CAAT is calling on her to ensure the case moves forward.Add your voice.